As children get older it is inevitable that they will start using social networking sites. Within these sites they will be encouraged to share all aspects of their lives – thoughts, opinions, feelings, pictures etc. – thus creating digital traces of themselves across the internet. However, what they probably fail to realise is that the internet keeps a record of everything we do online. In other words, it creates an “online reputation”.
It is vital for children to understand how to manage their online reputation because once information is uploaded to the internet, it can be very easily and very quickly shared around. This in turn could affect their friendships, leave them open to cyber-bullying and even affect their job prospects (many employers and university admissions teams check social media profiles when researching candidates). Yet a digital footprint is incredibly difficult to remove.
You can help your child keep a positive presence online by ensuring they understand the long-lasting effects of their internet activities and that their online reputation is created not only by what they post about themselves but also by what others post about them.
Emphasise the fact that it’s almost impossible to keep things private online. Even friends or family members could pass on messages you’ve asked them not to.
Children should never post anything online they don’t want thousands of people, including their family, to see.
A computer screen may give the illusion of distance between them and the other people they are communicating with, however being online is the same as living in the real world.
Always ask permission before tagging a friend online and never post inappropriate pictures. Watch out for photos tagged by their friends and remove any that are offensive.
Stop & think before posting a comment online. They could end up hurting someone or being hurt themselves. It is easier for comments to be misunderstood when typed rather than spoken.
Ask your child to tell you about all their email and instant messaging accounts and what the passwords are, thus allowing you to monitor their activities. Don’t feel guilty about it - you’re only giving them a false sense of security by letting them believe that privacy exists on the Internet.
Ask them to “friend” you on all their apps. This may not go down well but it could be one of the conditions for you allowing them to access social networking sites.
When your child stops using a social networking site, deactivate or delete their account.